My favorite fashionista sent me a link other day in advance of this week’s mHealth Summit. Since I spend most of my time worrying about MU, PQRS, VBP, and a host of other acronyms, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the fact that Forbes apparently has a style file. And here I thought they were all about business and investing!
Reading further down her text made me even more curious: “There’s tongue in cheek, and then there’s this….”
“Power Wear: mHealth Summit 2014” starts out innocently enough, providing background on the conference and its attendees. From there, however, the author gets a little silly, stating, “What you wear will visually convey your professional message as well as empower you to fully engage at the conference … my mission is to free you up to concentrate on presentation and participation by making getting dressed easy.”
Seriously? Does she actually think that women who have arrived at the point in their careers where they’re presenting at a national meeting cannot coordinate their own wardrobes?
She goes on to remind us that we need to “appear flattering” and “to opt for clothing that enhances or creates an hourglass shape.” I’m pretty sure I left my corset in the 1890s, where it belonged. When she admonished readers not to be distracted by “a fussy handbag, or fidgeting with your look,” I’m sure my mouth was gaping open. I wonder how many female mHealth professionals even own a fussy handbag, let alone give much consideration to their “look?”
Certainly no one wants to look bad on stage, but most of us prefer to spend our time polishing presentations and ensuring we have time to actually make all the meetings on our schedules rather than fretting about whether our outfits are au courant. Not to mention, serious travelers are more motivated to ensure their entire conference wardrobe fits into a 22-inch roller bag rather than making sure they have multiple handbags with which to accessorize.
She offers three “inspirational style guides” that are (in her words) fashion-forward, professionally-polished, versatile, comfy, and inspirational. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a smart suit or a hot shoe. But generally I’m inspired by a person’s words, accomplishments, and how they relate to the audience far more than how they’re dressed.
The second look she pictures reminds me of something out of the Barbie aisle, complete with awkward posture, anatomically-fascinating digital alterations, and optional accessories:
I was torn on thinking whether this piece was really supposed to be serious, so I sent it to some of the most fashion-savvy people I know, all of whom are seasoned conference presenters and attendees. Comments ranged from, “OMG, is this a joke? I’m kind of speechless. And why specifically for mHealth?” to, “After reading the beginning, I was expecting something a little more from the clothing.” One C-level took less exception to the existence of the piece than to the author’s choices: “Seriously, did you look at what she picked out… Good God! But don’t they have similar fashion articles for men?”
- I am sorry, but I am stunned by this. I would think that this conference would be less Project Runway and a little bit more Davos… the fact that this is probably representative of the wearable market (did Google Glass die yet, because it should), which is ripe with misplaced interest and based on the idea that the sexy dork is a smart one. Sure, I’d love to have years of biometric data in your EHR if I were your patient, but can’t we agree as patient and provider that it would be most valuable if you had all of my previous tests, visits, labs, and data elements in discrete and reportable (and trendable) format inside your EHR first?
- The only trend in healthcare that we should care about is the one that comes from having a true longitudinal and holistic and normalized view of a patient from birth to present. All other trends should be left at the hatters and haberdashers.
My favorite all-around IT guy is married to a physician and summed it up:
Maybe, just maybe, when healthcare leaders start to focus on the meaningful, the trite can be ignored. Providing sartorial suggestions for presenting demonstrates to me that we continue to focus on all that is useless while ignoring the real issues at hand. I am saddened, in a time when female representation at these meetings and panels remains woefully disproportionate to the balance of society at large, let alone employment in healthcare, that there is something important in how a woman is styled that will alter the content of the message, the value of the opinion and/or data, and the attention of the audience.
I am wearing a smart plaid tie over a blue shirt with brown pants, brown belt, brown shoes, and plaid socks with grey in them. No one cares that my socks are poorly chosen and the brown belt and shoes are not the same brown. Nor do people care that I rarely get a close shave. They just don’t. I stand in front of people and present things and they just listen to me and judge me on the content.
My personal advice for presenters is to wear something you’re comfortable in and to make sure that you have somewhere to clip the power pack for your wireless microphone. That in itself effectively rules out the first look, unless you’re traveling with a backstage roadie who is ready to hook it to your bra band or duct tape it to your back under the dress. I saw both of those happening in the green room of the studio where our hospital films its public-access cable show and neither is a technique I’d want to utilize in the 15 minute handoff between speakers at a conference.
I know a good number of HIStalk readers are at the mHealth Summit this week. I’m interested in what you think as well as what you’re seeing in the halls and on the podium. Is the mHealth crowd more fashionable than the HIMSS or Health 2.0 crowds? Is a $177 Tory Burch floral top going to take my presentation from good to great?
Email Dr. Jayne.